June 01, 2017

Checklist for an Elder Friendly Law Office

(The pdf for the issue in which this article appears is available for download: Bifocal, Vol. 38, Issue 5.)

As the American population ages, accommodating the needs of older adults become more and more important to a myriad of businesses. An elder-friendly office is one that provides spatial and social accommodations for disabilities such as hear-ing loss, visual impairment, and mobility limitations. A well designed office should make every visitor feel comfortable and welcome. While the people in your law office may be friendly and accommodating, the office itself may present barriers to many visitors.

        If you’re building a new facility, the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) produces ADA Accessibility Guidelines (ADAAG) (See 42 U.A.S.C. § 12181 (7)(F) contains a host of requirements to make a building accessible. If you are moving or remodeling, you may want to engage an expert in universal design. But if you’re working with an existing office, there are things you can do to make it more pleasant, accessible and safe.

     The ABA Commission on Law and Aging has developed a pamphlet
containing a host of ideas for the el- der-friendly law office. That pamphlet is available online at https://shop.americanbar.org/ebus/Store/ProductDetails.aspx?productId=217476

    Here are some highlights from the ABA Checklist for making a law office more welcoming to older adults.

    https://shop.americanbar.org/ebus/Store/ ProductDetails.aspx?productId=217476

  1. You should have handicapped accessible parking.
  2. Your office should be easily located; large signs will help guide clients to your door.
  3. Exterior and interior doors should be wide enough to permit wheelchairs or walkers to pass through easily. And, doors should not be too hard to open, nor should they close with too much force.
  4. The design of your elevator is probably not within of your control, but you should look it over to ensure that it is well lighted and the buttons are clearly marked and accessible to folks with vision limitations.
  5. Once inside your office, your clients should find comfortable seating—but not too comfortable. Plush chairs and sofas may be difficult to get into and out of. Hard chairs with arm rests are preferred.
  6. Your clients may be sensitive to excessive heat or cold. Be prepared to adjust the room temperature to make your clients more comfortable.
  7. Make sure the rooms are well lighted and free from glare.
  8. Many elderly clients may have hearing issues. You may want to turn off the background music, lower the speed of the fans and other sources of background noise.
  9. Restrooms should be as accessible as the rest of the office. Handrails and wide stalls are preferred.
  10. Finally. Make sure that any documents you provide to your clients are easy to read. Printing them in large type with wide space formatting will help.
  11. For the entire list, download the ABA checklist, available online for $19.95 at: https://shop.americanbar.org/ebus/Store/ ProductDetails.aspx?productId=217476